My siblings and I didn’t really have pets growing up. Except once we had a cat, Pelle, named for the tail-less cat in the popular Swedish children’s book, Pelle Svanslös. He was a great cat. Independent. A hunter. He would leave for a week and return with battle scars. He also gave me a perpetual cold for four years (nowadays known as allergies).
Other than that, no pets. My sister and I dreamed of owning a Westie, but our parents wouldn’t hear of it. And I don’t blame them. Why would you add a dog in addition to five children? (Sounds stressful.) Over time, I lost all interest in ever owning a dog—or any pet, for that matter.
So, it was with great trepidation that I gave in to my eight-year-old’s plea for a puppy nine years ago. We would lose our independence. It would be like having a toddler for life. We’d have to train it… Never did I in my wildest dreams imagine how wonderful life with a dog might be. Or that I would actually learn a thing or two about life from this little creature…
1. Sometimes it’s okay to just sit and soak up the sun. When the sun is shining, Sophie finds a spot on the floor that has been heated by the sun rays. Then she just lays there. We know sunshine in small doses is good for us. (Vitamin D, anyone?) Yet, how often do we take the time to just sit in the sun and enjoy the warmth it provides?
2. You’re never too old to play. Sophie just turned nine. That’s 44 in human years. That’s older than I am! Yet, Sophie continues to play. She knows a handful of words—and ‘toy’ is one of them. About once a day, she goes to her basket, pulls out a toy, and tries to get one of us to play with her. (She loses interest after about three throws, so it’s usually pretty safe to play along.) The point is, we all need to play—for life. Play is essential for wellness. And it’s fun!
3. Daily walks make you happy. When it gets cold outside, we sometimes get a little lazy with walks. Instead, we let Sophie run around in the back yard, while we impatiently wait for her to finish her business. However, this doesn’t make Sophie as happy as a walk. She wants to scamper around the block and sniff, sniff, sniff. Say hi to friends. Walking makes me happy too. For other reasons.
4. Show your love every day. I’m pretty sure that Sophie loves every human being on this planet. She greets visitors to our home with exuberant joy (we must have missed the don’t-jump-on-people class during puppy training). Every day when I come home from work, her little face peeks out the front door glass, but by the time I enter through the back door, she’s there, ready to greet me. She doesn’t hold back.
5. If you need attention, ask for it. When we’re born, we’re pretty good at getting our needs met. We cry when we’re hungry, wet, or tired. However, over time, some of us become less assertive in expressing our needs—especially our needs for affection and quality time with loved ones. Sophie doesn’t have that problem. She is quite good at communicating when she needs some love by gently pawing our hands. (Turns out this is not desirable behavior, but we think it’s pretty cute!)
I’m glad persistence is one of our child’s primary traits. Otherwise, I’d never know the love of Sophie, the best dog in the world.